17. Barnum & Bunnell—Weird Shows 2017-05-06T21:53:56+00:00

17. Early Shows

P. T. Barnum — Weird Magic Lantern Shows

 P. T. Barnum gave magic lantern shows in his Philadelphia Museum in 1849, and later in his New York museum. His presentations emphasized—you guessed it—razzle dazzle and “special effects” slides.

George Bunnell, a protégé of Barnum’s in the 1880s, was manager of a museum in Brooklyn, and also regularly promoted lantern shows. The Bunnell Museum’s Fat Men’s Show (portion of a flyer shown) was probably a combination of live comedy and projected images by David Foy, the “Pelicitous Photographer of Peculiar People.”

Making fun of fat people was a standard part of the lantern repertoire, as in the slip slide.  Click to fatten up the man.

Barnum also ran Stereopticon advertisements at his museum as an additional source of revenue.  Such advertisements were a regular part of the street scene in 19th century America, as is suggested by the engraving.

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